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Driving Manners and Etiquette

Courteous driving should be practiced by Filipinos in order to avoid stressful situations on the road, as well as ensure a smooth, satisfying driving experience in spite of all the traffic issues.

It doesn't hurt to be polite on the road. Numerous cases of altercations on the road and even accidents are due to road rage, with one party of both failing to practice proper driving etiquette. While driving, especially on Philippine streets, can indeed be a stressful activity, the best way to get safely and peacefully to where you're going is to maintain levelheadedness at all times while gripping the steering wheel.

Here, we have put up a list of good manners and right conduct that every driver must follow as well as relevant information to keep your driving experience safe and worry-free.

Driving Etiquette Defined

Driving etiquette refers to a set of general courtesy rules that drivers are supposed to follow. It is a no brainer that good driving etiquette necessitates being polite, courteous and alert on the while on the roadway. Although there are some guidelines that may vary from country to country, or from one city or town to another, or even from one specific type of vehicle to another, the essence of a driving etiquette is to practice best behavior when driving to reduce the risk of running into accidents or collisions, being traumatized or being involved in a road rage.

A good and responsible driver goes way beyond following the traffic rules. As with life in general, bear in mind the Golden Rule when you are out on the road: Do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you. Also keep in mind that "one good turn deserves another". Avoid aggressive driving, which is one manifestation of poor driving etiquette, as it will only put you and others around you in constant threat or danger.

Good Behavior and Skills Needed When Driving

Patience is key. If you're an impatient driver, you had better start learning to develop more tolerance and understanding as your attitude plays a large hand in avoiding traffic- and road-related hassles. Rudeness and impatience won't get your anywhere as these behaviors compromise your and your passenger's safety in more ways than one.

On the knowledge side, it is of course important that you are aware of traffic rules. Observing rules that are as simple as stopping at a red light or signaling when changing lanes matters a lot.

Learning defensive driving is also a huge advantage.

Guidelines to Follow When Driving

Follow Speed Limits

Over speeding is one of the top causes of road crashes in the Philippines. Wake up early and drive early so that you will get to your destination in time, instead of pushing on the gas pedal. Driving over the required speed will only get you a ticket and a hefty fine, plus you are putting your life and the lives of others around in danger.

But don't go too slow either. If you must drive slowly, keep your speed close to the minimum. While you surely do not intend to crash at this slow pace, the other vehicles might carelessly try to get pass you or around you and such actions may pose danger.

The allowable maximum speed in the Philippines, on most highways including radial and circumferential roads, is 60kmph for cars and motorcycles, but only 50kmph for the big buses and trucks. On most expressways, the maximum speed limit for cars and 400cc motorbikes is 100kmph, but only 60kmph in NAIAx for all kinds of vehicles. Trucks and buses are allowed to run at a maximum of 80kmph in SCTEx and TPLEx.

In crowded metro streets, the speed limit is at 20kmph only.

Rubbernecking is a term used to refer to slowing down to a crawl, for example, to check out an accident. This is a form of disrespect to the victims and a sure way to cause a traffic backup. Avoid doing this at all cost.

Stay in Your Lane

Indiscriminately changing lanes poses a risk of accident, so stay between the lines. Switch lanes only if you must, such as when turning or passing. In major expressways, use the "overtake lane" only when overtaking; otherwise go back to the main lane.

If you are driving a motorbike, make sure you stay at the motorcycle lane.

Signal When Changing Lanes

Signaling that you are changing lanes does not take a lot of effort, but it matters much for road safety. Don't fail to indicate that you are switching lanes on the motorway.

Check Your Rearview/Side Mirror Before Switching Lanes

In the Philippines, practically all roads including expressways are crowded with vehicles, and most of these are trying to overtake each other or rushing to get to their destinations. Motorcycles, for instance, try to take advantage of their small frame and try to squeeze in their way on all sides as long as there is an opening. This poses a risk of collision as they might get hit by a moving vehicle. So, make it a habit to check your rearview mirror and side mirror for incoming motorcycles and other vehicles before you weave in and out of lanes.

Merging Manners

To merge with the other cars, the most efficient way is to stay in your lane until you find the right time to merge, then take turns with the vehicles in the other lane to keep things moving. Merging usually happens when you're trying to enter traffic or a queue, for example, the toll fee queue.

In the Philippines, if you're letting one car merge in your lane or queue, most of the time 2 to 5 more cars will try to get in as well. If that's the case, let one or two cars merge at a time. If there's no car behind you, it's okay to let them merge. Otherwise, switching lanes is more appropriate.

Maintain a Safe Distance Between Cars

A bumper-to-bumper situation is always risky. Never stay too close to the car in front of you; and likewise, don't let the car behind you tailgate you. Tailgating is considered rude. Maintain enough distance so that you don't run the risk of hitting the other car's bumper. It also allows you space to maneuver should you want to switch lanes or turn.

Make an effort to ensure your brake lights are working. These lights are essential so that you won't get rear-ended.

Use Turn Signals Appropriately

Proper use of turn signals and at the right time is important, not just for safety reasons but for easing traffic as well. Use your signal lights if you're about to turn, switch lanes, back up, or make a U-turn. Not signaling or signaling too late can cause other drivers, especially the one following you, or beside you, to get upset and an altercation may ensue. Knowing what you are about to do is important to drivers around you so that they can adjust their next actions, such as whether to overtake or stay on course.

Improper use of signals can cause miscommunication and even unwanted collisions, so avoid confusing your fellow drivers by switching on your signal lights when you do not have any intention to turn. Make up your mind to avoid causing traffic blunders.

Avoid Honking without Reason

As a general rule, stay off the horn no matter how frustrated you are. Unless safety is at risk, such as if a vehicle is stupidly blocking your way, or a car cuts in front of you without signaling, then you can beep all you want, but if in a heavy traffic situation where everyone is stuck, indiscriminate honking can be irritating especially since you your fellow drivers cannot do anything but wait till the traffic clears.

A brief honk to alert another driver that the light has turned green or other forms of heads up is also okay. Here's what your horn is saying for you:

Don't Drive Drunk

Drive only when you're sober. In the Philippines, it is illegal to drive with blood alcohol content of 0.05% for nonprofessional license holders, and 0.01% for pros and motorcycle riders. Many accidents are caused by drunk driving. If you've had alcohol, you're doing yourself and the people around you a favor if you don't get behind the wheel.

Don't Drive When Sleepy

Staying alert and focused is critical. Similar to being drunk, your senses are dulled when you're sleepy, and passing out will make you lose control of your vehicle. This is a sure way to fatal collisions or crashes. Worst, there may be third parties who'd be victimized by your inconsiderate action of driving while drowsy. Best to pull over and park, and get some sleep before you continue driving.

Avoid Using Hi-Beams, Unless It's Necessary

A glaring light can momentarily blind another driver and may disorient him or her, which could lead to an accident. Only use high-beam lights when traveling on a dimly lit road or at night and you need to signal others of your presence. Being a responsible driver means you know when to use your car's features and functionalities appropriately, without putting anyone at risk.

Be Polite to Law Enforcement

Respect is key, not just to law enforcement but to fellow travelers as well. If you get pulled over for what you think is not your fault or not a valid reason, don't raise your voice and quarrel with the officers. Be polite, explain yourself. Get their names and details should you need to file a complaint later.

Always mind your manners with people in uniform as arguing could only cause more problems and waste of time and energy.

Do Not Play Loud Blaring Music

Keep your music in your car. What you think as good, inspiring music may be irritating to others, so keep the volume of your music low enough for you and your passengers to hear. If you like it loud, keep your windows rolled down before you blast your speakers away.

Respect the Crosswalks or Pedestrian Lanes

There are cities in the Philippines such as Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, and San Juan that has some sort of Pedestrian Safety Ordinance, which means pedestrians are a priority. Motorists caught not yielding to pedestrians or stopping before crosswalks will be penalized.

It is common courtesy though, even if there are no ordinances, to give way to pedestrians. Always watch out for pedestrian lanes especially near school zones and hospitals.

Pull Over for Emergency Vehicles

Let ambulance, firetrucks and other emergency vehicles pass. There's a reason for those sirens and flashing lights, and someone's life or some people's lives may be at stake.

Do not Engage with Rude Drivers

Some people are just born rude. Even if you are not at fault, try hard not to respond to other people's bad behavior as once you let your temper get the better of you, even a minor situation can become potentially dangerous.

Avoid Gridlocks

A gridlock is a form of traffic congestion where queues of moving vehicles block an entire network of intersecting streets, thus bringing traffic in all directions to a complete standstill. It is best to avoid being part of a gridlock or initiating a gridlock. It is a waste of time, and could take hours to get out of.

Avoid Distractions

The best common courtesy you can extend to your fellow travelers is to contribute to safety, not initiate danger. It is the driver's responsibility to keep everyone in the car safe, as well as the people in other vehicles, so it is proper etiquette to avoid common distractions that make driving dangerous and ill-mannered.

Here are some common distractions that you should avoid as they interfere with your ability to be alert on the road.

  1. Cellphones/Smartphones. Never text or call while driving. If urgent, pull over to take the call. Or if you have a passenger, have him/her take the call for you.
  2. Brush or comb. Never brush your hair behind the wheel. Brush before entering the car or tie your hair up.
  3. Makeup. Do not apply mascara, powder, lipstick, blush or other forms of makeup while driving. Primping is done before you leave the house, not when there's a lot of life at stake with missed concentration on the road.
  4. A map. Fidgeting with a map is also dangerous as you don't get to fix your eyes on the road. Best to have an alternative GPS. If you really must check the map, pull into the nearest parking lot and find all the information you need from the map before resuming your drive.
  5. Display of affection. A moving car, especially when you're driving, is not the venue for kissing and other forms of affection. Keep your hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road or you are bound to swerve.
  6. Snacks. Eating while driving should at all times be avoided. If you're hungry, pull over first and eat your food.

Use Polite Gestures

Politeness always pays. If the other driver lets you pass or make a turn, for instance, the polite thing to do is to mouth "Thank you" before turning or lift a hand in a friendly gesture that acknowledges the good deed.

Intersection Etiquette

Intersections can be tricky. Whenever there's a four-way or all-way stop sign, you may get confused about when it is okay to go, especially since traffic from every direction is required to come to a complete stop. The proper road etiquette here is that the first car to reach the intersection goes first.

However, if two cars reach the intersection at the exact same time, then the one on the right has the right of way. In the case of four cars stopping at the intersection, a counterclockwise move is recommended until everyone has passed. If all four cars come to a stop at the exact same time, most likely one driver will be assertive and go first, or you can make eye contact with the other drivers and wave someone through.

Parking Etiquette

When parking, it is also a good thing to practice good manners. If someone is already waiting for a turn at a parking slot, do not go ahead and steal the parking space. Park properly such that you leave enough room for the other car's door to open. And don't take up two spaces so that others can use the extra slot a swell. Having a passenger stand in an empty space to save a space is also not a good idea.


Stressful traffic or roadway situations can bring out the rudeness even in otherwise very nice people. It doesn't have to be that way though. Courtesy is something you need to practice in everything you do in life, including when you are driving. Having good manners and right conduct on the road will help avoid unnecessary quarrels and make traveling safe and sound for many. If every driver would practice proper etiquette and avoid self-serving deeds, then traveling and driving on Philippine roads will be a happy and enjoyable experience.